A new study suggests that medical cannabis may be a safe and effective option for reducing pain and medication burden in cancer patients who are not getting adequate pain relief from conventional analgesics like opioids.
The study, published May, 2o23 titled Medical cannabis is effective for cancer-related pain: Quebec Cannabis Registry results, was large, prospective, population-based, and real-world, meaning that it involved a diverse group of patients who were actually using medical cannabis for pain relief, rather than just being tested in a lab. The researchers found that medical cannabis was associated with significant decreases in pain intensity and interference, as measured by the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System-revised (ESAS-r).
Importantly, the study also found that medical cannabis had a good safety profile, with a low percentage of patients experiencing adverse effects (AEs) such as somnolence, dizziness, and fatigue. This is in contrast to opioids, which are associated with more common and challenging AEs like constipation and delirium.
The study also looked at different chemovar profiles of medical cannabis, which refer to the ratios of THC and CBD in the product. The researchers found that THC:CBD balanced strains were associated with the most significant decreases in pain intensity and interference, compared to THC-dominant or CBD-dominant strains. However, all types of medical cannabis were effective to some extent.
The study also looked at medication burden, which refers to the number and amount of medications a patient is taking. The researchers found that medical cannabis use over time led to a consistent decrease in medication burden in many patients, including a decrease in opioid consumption. This is important because opioids are associated with a high risk of dependence, overdose, and other adverse effects.
This study provides important evidence for the role of medical cannabis in the management of cancer-related pain. However, it is important to note that this was an observational study with no control group, meaning that the results should be interpreted with caution. Additionally, patients and assessors were not blinded to the study outcome, and there was significant loss to follow-up throughout the study.
If you are interested in exploring medical cannabis as a treatment option for your cancer-related pain, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if medical cannabis is appropriate for you, what type and dosage to use, and how to monitor for any potential AEs or interactions with other medications.
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